I was born and raised in and around the Portland, Oregon area and, except for three years in Las Vegas, I have lived here my whole life. My dad is a musician and as children we traveled a lot, so, I’ve been to almost every US state and parts of Canada and Mexico. I’m afraid to fly and I get seasick, so, that limits my chances of ever being overseas like all the “real American” writers.
I generally write free verse poetry and short stories. I have been known to write creative nonfiction, but most of these end up being fictionalized stories by the time I’m done revising them. I also have two novels in the works, which is what they have been in for several years now.
I live with my wife Andrea, our two dogs Bella and Sauvee (pronounced Sue V) and our black moor goldfish, Howard Wolowitz.
2. What is your ultimate goal in terms of your writing?
Ultimately, I want to have one story, poem, or book that’s taught in literature and writing classes a hundred years after I’m dead. I want my Cathedral, my Young Goodman Brown, my Tell Tale Heart. Also, it would be nice to finish a novel sometime.
3. Do you think writers are born or made?
Anyone can learn to write, but those born with the gift are forced to write.
4. What is your writing schedule like? Do you write every day? Do you have a word limit?
Right now my full time job is being a writer, though I’m looking for more steady work. I have many clients and do work ranging from website rewrites, to book edits, to critiques, to resume writing and help with academic papers. I generally work 11-8 every day except Sunday and spend the last hour of each work day working on my own “personal” writing. Sometimes that means writing from scratch, other times, it means editing and revising (which is my favorite part). It really just depends. I also try to submit something every day so that I always have rejection letters coming in.
5. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Ninety percent of the time, I begin a story with a scene, image or word in my head and I write and see where it takes me. Occasionally, I’ll map out a story in my head, build the skeleton and come back and fill in the guts, but this is rare. I like to discover the story along with my readers.
It’s hard work. A reader may read your 1,000 word story in two or three minutes, but it probably took the writer 10 or more hours to craft it. The version you are reading is probably nothing like the original.
Also, writing isn’t as easy as having good grammar and putting commas in the right places. It’s about using words to paint a picture. A good writer gets as much enjoyment discovering his story as a reader does reading it.
7. Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Writers block is a myth. It’s just another word for “procrastination.” Write every day and don’t worry if what you’re writing is garbage. You’re probably going to delete your shitty first draft anyway, so why sweat it? The act of writing naturally negates any alleged writers block.
I have found that one way to keep the juices flowing is to end your writing day in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you revisit the piece, you have something to build on besides a punctuation mark, which can be as scary as the blank page.
8. Do you read a lot and, if so, which authors do you prefer?
As Stephen King said, reading is part of the job description of being a writer. You cannot hone your chops without reading and reading a lot. I’m usually reading 4-5 books at the same time. I always have. I read a lot of poetry. I don’t care much for poems written prior to Whitman. I just don’t dig on the archaic language and it’s hard for me to get in the mind of the writer if I can’t understand what the writer is saying. I’m not knocking it, I just don’t like it.
As far as fave writers, I love Carver, O’Connor, Easton Ellis, Palahniuk, Stephen King, Poe, Tim O’Brien, Howard Zinn, Steve Almond, Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, Hemingway, Williams Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Elizabeth Bishop, and anyone else with an edge. I love edge and I love discovering new writers.
9. Can writers edit their own work or do you think it’s better to have someone else do that?
A good writer should be able to do basic edits on a piece and be able to tell what’s working and what’s not, and be able to fix basic grammar and spelling issues. But, before they submit a piece, it’s important to get another eye, a critical eye, to tear apart your story or poem. I find when I write I tend to miss the little details. I have a trusted group of readers and they help me tie up the loose ends and tell me what’s working and what’s not. I trust them to be honest with me, as I am with them. It’s essential. Even the best writers miss things. Sometimes that extra set of eyeballs or two works wonders.
I don’t think you can succeed as a writer without subjecting your work to public critique. I crave it. I enjoy it. It doesn’t scare me at all because I know, in the end, the piece will be even better. I don’t have to use the suggestions I’m offered, it is my story after all, but they can definitely help me see what’s working and what’s not.
10. How important do you think it is for authors to use social marketing?
Very important. There’s a billion authors out there and most people aren’t going to buy your book or read your story without a little buzz. You need name recognition. Think of Coca Cola. Everyone has heard of Coca Cola, but they still advertise and, sometimes, you see that Coke billboard and you just have to have a Coke. Well, it’s the same way with social marketing. If people see you and see your name, they’re more likely to want to check you out.
I like to use social marketing to not only promote my own book and blogs, but also to draw attention to authors I admire and respect. I think you need to use your social media to promote more than just yourself, otherwise, you’ll get the reputation of being a spammer.
11. If you could go back in time, what would you say to your younger writer self?
Give up on music early. Don’t pursue it as a career. Look at it as a hobby. You’re not great at it and writing is your strength. Start writing and don’t stop writing and by the time you hit your thirties, you’ll be much more accomplished and established in your writing career. Submit your work to the markets—especially unpublished pieces—and write what’s true to you. Don’t force anything. Write from your life. You’ve had a good and unusual one. Don’t waste time on novels. Your strengths are short stories, essays and poems. You may finish your novels one day, but, don’t focus on it.
12. How can readers learn more about you and your writing?
You can also get my book on Amazon.com and elsewhere. My poems and short stories are out there in numerous publications including The Rusty Nail, The Crisis Chronicles, The Hellroaring Review, eFiction, The Whistling Fire, Burningword, See Spot Run, Ohio Edit, and many more. I’m out there. You just have to look for me.